Friday, October 12

Seeing The Future: The Active Office Space

One of the more interesting research projects coming out of Australia is a pilot intervention study being conducted by the University of Queensland. The study, which employs Ergotron WorkFit Sit-Stand Workstations, is designed to reduce the amount of time employees sit.

Mostly, the study is confined to seeing how long employees choose to stand as opposed to sit at their work stations. The initial report found that when workers were given the choice, they would reduce on-the-job sitting time by more than 27 percent. The company that makes the stations links excessive sitting with an increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. 

Highlights from the sit-stand workstation study. 

The researchers conducted the tests right, with two groups of office workers who were predominantly of the same demographic (women in their 30s). One group of 18 workers were given sit-stand workstations. The other, 14 workers, retained their non-adjustable desks.

In the sit-stand group, sitting time was reduced by more than two hours and standing time increased by more than two hours after both one week and three months of workstation use, compared with the group that did not receive the desks. Overall sitting time during a 16-hour weekday was reduced by about 80 minutes and standing time increased by up to 90 minutes in the sit-stand group, though no significant changes were found in walking time, researchers said.

"The pilot study provides evidence that a sit-stand workstation (approximate U.S. $399) can reduce sitting time in office workers," said Genevieve Healy, Ph.D., University of Queensland. "Furthermore, epidemiologic evidence suggests that the reductions in sitting at the workplace could potentially have considerable impact on cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes prevention."

What sit-stand workstations need to do next. 

While Dr. Healy and her team are currently extending this research into multiple workplaces to examine the most feasible and acceptable ways to reduce prolonged sitting, these studies need to be expanded to consider other areas that corporations and small businesses will notice.

For example, if the study were expanded to measure productivity, employee morale, customer service, or even space economy, businesses would be that much more likely to adopt the idea. In addition, the manufacturers wold probably benefit from stations that could be pre-programmed to match the sitting and standing height of employees without any effort on their part to adjust for ergonomics.

Currently, the the company has been mostly focused on the more apparent health-related aspects of sitting vs. standing. However, it does have an interesting set of calculators designed to guesstimate a return on investment that alludes to the 12 percent increase in productivity related to ergonomics and 20 percent increase in productivity with dual displays.

In such a scenario, the company claims that 100 employees could realize an estimated savings and productivity gain of $1.5 million, which is pretty substantial. This means the payback occurs in about 5 working days. But what interests me about the innovation is even broader.

By merging these simple low-tech solutions with modern technology, it would be that much more possible to increase the ability for people to present while standing at their workstation (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, etc.), which always delivers better results than sitting in front of a desktop camera. Likewise, for companies that still use cubicles, planning for elevated workstations would give workers a greater sense of privacy instead of always feeling like they have to sit down to feel it.
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